Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/573

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RISING PRICES AND THE PUBLIC 567

land, have apparently not shared in the unearned profits which rising prices have brought to other industries. From the workingmen's standpoint, the need for advances in wages is obvious enough. But from the employers' standpoint such advances will probably mean marked reduction in profits.

The public press has pointed to the large profits of the mills and to the fact that the stock of some of the companies is selling at ten times the par value. But these facts signify little; profits were large fifteen years ago and the value of the stock has been high accordingly. The point is, the mills have not made such additional gains in recent years as have other industries ; they have been pressed by the increasing cost of production; and have relatively fallen behind in prosperity. Advances in wages will probably mean cut profits and consequently lower stock values. The writer is not defending the mill owners nor yet the operatives ; he is merely pointing out a serious mal-adjustment, for which neither side is fundamentally responsible, but from which both are suffering.

3. As in the case of prices, so the wages of different classes of work- men have not advanced proportionally. Those affected pretty directly by the changed conditions of supply and demand advanced first, and those affected remotely, last. Then, if we distinguish broadly between wages and salaries, we find that the latter particularly have responded but little to the shifting exchange level.

Salaries even more than wages are controlled by custom and rigid social standards. Moreover, when they change they do so by jumps, not gradually, as wages. Thus the salary of a clerk is $800 a year, or $1,000, $1,200 or $1,500; an intermediate sum is unlikely; the passage from one to the other is difficult and is painfully resisted by the employer. « 

So, while wages have advanced gradually about 40 per cent. — not enough to counterbalance the rise in prices — salaries have remained almost unchanged. Again, however, conditions have varied a great deal between different classes; in few cases there have been large advances, in others moderate ones, but in the majority practically none at all. Unfortunately we lack definite statistical data as to salary standards. But, if we can rely upon observation by students of social affairs, we are warranted in holding to the general conclusion stated.

Salaries, then, perhaps more than any other class of incomes have lost through rising prices. In fact, only recently have they clearly begun to move upward. Eventually when a final high level of exchange has been reached, especially if a downward swing sets in, equitable adjustments will undoubtedly be reestablished, or gradually persons

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